Cases of Obedience in the Abu Ghraib Case
The acts of torture performed on the inmates at Abu Ghraib were both cruel and inhumane. But what if the reason the guards tortured the inmates was due to the result of obedience from their superiors. The cause of the torture of the prisoners at Abu Ghraib could have stemmed from situational factors instead of the will of a few aggressive soldiers. Authority figures that use persuasive methods can be very influential. There are many circumstantial possibilities as to why the guards treated the prisoners cruelly. Most people don't attribute the torture to many situational and external causes. In this case, most people attribute the torture to the internal faults of the guards when it could very well be outside sources at fault. Fear
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"Social norms are expected standards of behavior and beliefs established and enforced by a group" (Franzoi 281). The group is the authorities at the prison camp and possibly other guards and staff members present. Most definitely there was a social norm that punishing the inmates was acceptable. The photographic evidence agrees with this. There are pictures of guards giving the "thumbs up" and smiling in pictures as prisoners are tortured naked in the background. Assuming that the guards were ordered to torture the prisoners at Abu Ghraib, another reason they may have proceeded with the torture could have come from the intent on not breaking the social norm and dealing with its social ramifications. Abu Ghraib also has three traits that psychologist Herbert Kelman has described as necessary for torture: authorization, routinization, and dehumanization. To translate this jargon, authorization means that "someone with power needs to say that extreme measures are acceptable." (Szegedy-Maszak) In a separate interview, Pfc. Lynndie England revealed that her superiors said, "Hey, you're doing great; keep it up" (Szegedy-Maszak).
The people running the prison systems could have used social facilitation to coerce the soldiers into torturing the inmates. They could have been present during the time of the torture, which would greatly increase the chances of the soldiers complying and obeying their orders.